Album: Summertime ‘06 (2015)
Producer: Clams Casino

It's too early to say if "Norf Norf" is the song Vince Staples was born to make, but it very well could be. It's the rapper unfiltered, accompanied only by the spare, menacing beat, with its foghorn-like groan. The approach complements Staples' stripped-down description of his life in Long Beach, trying to mack on a girl with threats on all sides. "I ain't never ran from nothing but the police," he says on the hook, more weary than proud of the fact.

He's never been more clear-eyed, even ambivalent, about the realities of gang life. The mother whose viral rant about the song's supposedly dangerous message to kids clearly missed the point—"Norf Norf" isn’t endorsing murder any more than it is cops who hunt down the young black men they're allegedly paid to protect. It’s about survival. But Staples refused to take the bait as others mocked her. Instead, he defended the woman, saying she misunderstood the context and seemed emotionally unstable, and besides, everyone has the right to decide what their kids listen to. He always keeps it honest.